QualiTrace is an award winning traceability and anti-counterfeiting AgriTech startup company based in Accra, Ghana. That provides track and trace technology to authenticate and verify agro-based product inputs and outputs. In this e-Interview, Kenneth Nelson, the co-founder and CEO speaks with Alaba Ayinuola on how his brand is improving the livelihood of farmers and other stakeholders by empowering them to fight against fake agro input and assuring quality, using innovative technologies to trace food to the farm gates with just a click and Ghana producing innovative AgriTech Startups that equal compete globally. Excerpts.
Tell us about QualiTrace and the role you play?
The QualiTrace founded in 2017, has a concept built on the concept of traceability where a consumer can trace food produce to the farm gates.
QualiTrace is an Agri-Tech start-up Company that uses track and trace technology to authenticate product agro inputs (such as seeds and fertilizers) and outputs. QualiTrace not only authenticates but also provides a clear simple means by which players in any given supply chain can trace products along the chain till the final consumer also independently verifies the source and quality of the product.
QualiTrace also has a user friendly Artificial Intelligence technology (mobile app) that helps farmers identify diseases and pest infestation on crops and recommend treatment and the best quality agro input to fight it. Simply snap a photo of the affected area of the crop area and the app will predict the pest or disease is and recommend the right agro input. We provide technological solutions to improve the livelihoods of farmers.
Our vision is to bring innovative technologies to make life healthier for consumers (farmers & consumers)
I am a founding member and CEO. But, I prefer to be seen as the leader who literally leads the way by setting examples. I put myself out there by working the operations and business development of the company to encourage my team to put in their maximum best.
What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
QualiTrace emerged from a social impact AgriTech competition called the Kosmos Innovation Center AgriTech challenge and won the 2017 edition with $50,000 seed investment to proof concept.
The competition was a 12 month training programme for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and dreams to make a difference in the Agriculture industry in Ghana and Africa as a whole. The programme is designed to allow individuals to form teams from the selected based on different but complimenting skills, academic backgrounds and experience with the same vision to solve a specific problem.
Winning the competition was “no walk in the park”. Twelve months training and eliminations at 3 stages before winners (team) are declared based on dedication, hard work, perseverance and “fire in the belly”. Prior to winning, our capital came from our own pockets and investing our time, energy and visions.
What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
The startup life and road of an entrepreneur is not for the weak. Hours of ideation, try and error, calculated risk and tears. There is no getting to the top in entrepreneurship. There is no end. When you get to a goal, you have to set another goal. You go far, so you can be strong enough to go further.
There are both internal and external challenges. Internal challenges ranges from team dynamics to raising extra funds to grow. External challenges comes with adaptation of your solution (technology) by users (farmers), people not believing it could be done, and most importantly, pressure from family tiers.
To an investor and other stakeholders in the industry, there is competition, but to me, the only competition I see is myself. Delivering and achieving more than the goals set is my competition. The focus now is to build the basic foundation of a business that will change the status quo in the agriculture industry.
Overcoming challenges in the startup and entrepreneurship world is a daily routine. It is what truly defines what Entrepreneurship is all about. What keeps me going in overcoming challenges is, I keep reminding myself “what is the purpose”. I proud of my achievements but it doesn’t mean I settle for them. I seek growth for myself and QualiTrace. Competition is one way of saying, “can you survive”!. To be the best, you must outwork the rest and overcoming challenges clearly means committing to every part of your life to build a brand that people can relate to.
How does your organisation measure it’s impacts?
Fighting counterfeit agrochemicals means ensuring farmers verifying their agro inputs before purchase. We measures impacts in two main ways. Number of counterfeits detected and the number of verifications on agro inputs purchased. Ensuring quality is key to produce quality food.
What is the future for QualiTrace and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
The focus is to be the best quality assurance and anti-counterfeiting company in Africa. We want to see QualiTrace as a Brand name that assures quality across Africa using innovative technologies to trace food to the farm gates with just a click. One way to do that is through collaboration. It is either you collaborate or you die!
How is your business contributing to the development of the agricultural sector in Ghana and Africa?
QualiTrace is gradually reducing the number of fake agrochemicals brought to Africa and ensure we produce quality and safe food for international markets and using simple technologies to do so. We believe in creating a system that is transparent and will enhance food safety and security.
What is your view on the development of Ghana business ecosystem?
Ghana and Africa as a whole has all it needs (resources) to grow exceedingly. To become the leaders and drivers of several industries from agriculture to technology to human capital and we continue to realize that from the number of Western investors coming to Africa to do business. Ghana is producing innovative AgriTech Startups that equal compete with the rest of the world as well as other African countries.
What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.
Very few entrepreneurs can clearly state their purpose or why they want to be entrepreneurs. Once you can identify the reason why you do what you do, then you are half way through. If it was easy, everyone will do it but the journey as an entrepreneur takes more than just saying it. Just take the step and DARE TO DREAM!
What inspires you and keeps you going?
What keeps me going is my family. What I mean by family is my immediate family, my staff, my co-founders and my friends. What keeps me going is knowing very well that I am making a difference in the life of people and changing Ghana and Africa through innovation.
What inspire me are the challenges I face and overcome each day. As the saying goes, “if you do what is easy, life will be hard; but if you do what is hard, life will be easy”.
How do you relax and what books do you read?
Spending time with family, going on trips, and a little bit of sports keeps me relaxed. I read books mainly on Leadership, motivational speeches, and strategic and planning books.
Kenneth A. Nelson and team recently in Dubai presenting QualiTrace and QualiScan.
Born on the 6th of January, 1990 to Ghanaian parents, Kenneth A. Nelson is an Agribusiness expert with skills in supply chain management, marketing and sales.
Author Mark Twain once said that, “the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why”. I cannot say if I have figured out the ‘why’ factor yet, but I believe entrepreneurship has always been my awakening. My motivation in life is to solve complex challenges and problems and making a difference in people’s life. Probably not for the fame but for the sweet satisfaction that you are closer to becoming the likes of Nelson Mandela and Albert Einstein.
My goals change from time to time with respect to the task or challenge that comes my way. But I also believe my utmost goal in life is to be remembered as a great Person.
Kindly with http://qualitracegh.com/
Edith Njage: My Letter to fellow Female CEOs
Edith Njage, Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa (Image: Supplied)
Edith Njage is a Social and Serial Entrepreneur based in Africa. She is the Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa, which aims to create over 100,000 jobs in Africa through empowering, training, coaching and connecting and funding entrepreneurs. Edith is the Country Representative for Invicta Ventures on a mission to fund social impact ventures with up to $10 billion in developing markets. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Finance and a Bachelor in Business Management with a major in Economics. A Master of Science in International Business with a major in Disruptive Innovation and a Master of Science in Finance, both from HULT International Business School. Excerpts of her letter below;
There are realities that come with being a woman in leadership that in most cases remain secret.
Realities faced but not communicated.
My journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO has been nothing short of rough, tough and everything in-between. The hardest truth is that the journey has been lonely with no-one to turn to, until I decided to make changes to not only my leadership, but my circles as well. I began my journey as a serial entrepreneur at 18, relatively young in the books of most but when a problem in your continent calls, age is never a factor. I became a CEO at 24 and to date I wish someone explained the realities of being a woman in leadership. Especially a young and black woman in leadership.
I wish I knew the bias that I would face each time I walked into a room and sat on the table when most expected me to just bring the coffee,
I wish I knew that fundraising would be more about my gender and race than the value my companies brought to the table,
I wish I knew that the most powerful weapon a female CEO can wield is a network of other female CEOs,
I wish I didn’t do it all alone.
Dear Female CEOs,
You are powerful. You are graceful, You are beautiful in leadership. I know that the world has taught you to blend in, I know you have been told to use your position or title to protect your vulnerability and I know most days it feels like no-one in the world can understand what it is like to be you. I want you to know the key to our strength is each other. I want you to know that rather than face the bias alone, rather than rise to the top alone, we can band together and not only rise but build a system for the next generation of female CEOs to struggle less than we did.
Where the world has called us bossy, let’s exude grit and relentless pursuit of our dreams,
Where they have called us soft, we can preach emotional intelligence and finally,
Where they have prevented our progress, we can build paths for the progress of other women after us.
This is our time, but we cannot go at it alone. We must band together and begin talking about these realities, not in secret but for the world to see. It is for this reason that I decided about a month ago that enough was enough and that it was important for me to begin sharing the truth behind my journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO. I started a podcast!
Since beginning this journey I am in awe of how many women in leadership, in business, in politics and in corporate have reached out sharing their stories!
The Latest Episode is available below (streamed to Spotify and Apple Podcast). Adding onto that I have decided to be intentional about building a Female CEO Global Board. A space for Female CEOs to share their stories, struggles, plans for growth of their businesses and so much more!
If this is something that interests you and you would like to join us next week or maybe just find a safe space and community of women who understand, book a coffee chat with me here; https://calendly.com/edith-njage-alpha-group/one-on-one
I became intentional about building circles with fellow female CEOs and investing into those circles so that as a tribe we would all rise! Rise in business, rise in our purposes and pursuits and rise in who we are as people in the world.
As always, I hope that unashamedly sharing my truth will help you know that you are never alone.
Interview with a Polyglot: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services
Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services (Image: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo)
Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo is a polyglot who speaks nine (9) foreign languages. She is the Founder of Empress Linguistics Services (ELS) creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across borders. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Favour about what it means to be a polyglot, her journey in entrepreneurship and much more. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your journey into entrepreneurship?
Favour: Becoming the Solution! Oh yes, I proffer Solutions. My name is Favour Chisimdi Emerald Nwobodo from Enugu state in Nigeria. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be the Solution to people’s problems. Growing up, I got to witness the high rates of unemployment/poverty in the country, and the urge to put an end to this problem started growing.
At first, I started EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES (my brand) as a Linguistics brand – just Translations and Language Tutorials. I was the only one handling it but at some point, I did quit. During those bad moments, I was aimlessly searching on google when I saw the current finance situation. I felt bad – Nigeria is slowly losing “NAIRA”. I went on to search for ways to strengthen the economy of the country and I saw “Promotion of international trade” That struck!. But we’ve got machines and interpreters, why is yours different?
But then machines would be machines and sometimes those Interpreters might Interpret wrong stuff and scam people. I left the site and went into proper thinking, I thought about it and came up with ” LINGUISTICS IN FINANCE ”- when Linguistics meets Finance, it doubles it, it revives the currency etc.
I went on to propound the “LINGUISTICS IN BUSINESS SYSTEM”. I tried my hypothesis with a client’s job and it worked- I was convinced! So I came back stronger at Empress Linguistics Services and we’ve been able to help companies, businesses, and all thrive.
So far, we have been able to pull off a lot of deals. And from the comfort of our client’s home they are able to run their Businesses with ease, learn and attain fluency in foreign languages with ease. Our peer to peer service makes it so easy for Companies that most of them stick to it as their Linguistics needs (Translations and all) are attended to in 24 hours.
Also , seeing the way non English speakers are marginalized in various countries- they can’t access lots of things (products, companies etc) as they can’t understand English. With this, Empress Linguistics Services is working hard to eliminate Linguistics barriers and give them accessibility to various opportunities with LINGUIS-NESS (LINGUISTICS AND BUSINESS) a news platform in various languages that enables non English speakers access lots of information in various languages.
Alaba: Empress Linguistics is creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across borders. How did it all start?
Favour: My manager “Barr Chijioke Ojukwu” told me about opening a brand, and the brand “Empress Linguistics Services” was founded. At first, I had no vision. I just wanted to tutor languages and that’s all. I wanted it as a side hustle but then, REDIRECTION happened.
During the trying times, I went off and did some research and founded “Linguistics in Business”- How Linguistics helps to make businesses thrive, it was a great module. I also did some case studies with our client’s business and it thrived. It was a sell out, this prompted me to seek for “Linguistics in Finances” to help companies, firms and organizations meet their target companies and stabilize their finance goal by thriving in non english sectors.
Currently, we’re about entering the TECH and HEALTH sector to create products/services to serve everyone and make life easy. Just like our slogan says, “With ELS, lives are made easier”.
Alaba: Can you describe in detail what your company does and the response from your target market?
Favour: Empress Linguistics Services is a Linguistics Service aimed at profering Linguistics solutions to Businesses and the world at large. We’re in to make the world a better place with Linguistics and so far we’ve been good. Reaching the target market hasn’t been as I just entered the niche but I’m damn enjoying my growth. It’s worth it.
EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES is currently working on the Health sector with another product “DIGITAL HEAVEN”. I am sure you can wait for it. Some of our services are;
- Translations Services
- Interpretation services
- Proofreading Services
- Language tutorial Services
- Transcription services
- Advertisement in various languages
- Jingles in various languages
- Website Translations
- App Translations
- Movie Subtitlings
- Lyrics Translations, etc.
Alaba: What makes your brand different from the rest of the language translation startups in Africa?
Favour: What makes ELS stand out is ELS would always be ELS. The goal of ELS is to solve the Linguistics needs of Man. We are here to proffer solutions to man’s needs. Also at ELS, we have the peer to peer services that enables companies to get their Linguistics needs in less than 24 hours and from their own comfort.
We’re not a Translation startup, we’re a Linguistics startup as we offer both translations, tutorials and more. We’re in for TECH, HEALTH , EDUCATION and FINANCE and we’re working on making things easier in those sectors.
Alaba: You seem to really enjoy learning languages. What would you recommend to people who don’t like language learning but still want to speak in a new language?
Favour: When people say “Languages are hard” I tell them everything is easy once you understand the methodology but unfortunately some school’s methodology are so bad that people struggle to learn foreign languages and that’s why ELS was born to make it easier for MAN. At ELS, we make language learning easy and fun.
Alaba: What did you find to be the biggest myth when it comes to language learning?
Favour: Mmmmm, the myth I got to find out is “elimination of FEAR” and knowing the grammar rules.
Most language speakers don’t try to learn the grammar rules as they feel it’s a waste of time and it makes it hard for them to attain fluency easier and faster. Some of them find it hard to read and speak because of this.
This is the secret to the faster fluency in our students . Some get to make sentences and speak in their 2nd month. Once the rules are understood, you’re good to go.
Alaba: Who are some of the modern polyglots you are impressed with, and why?
Favour: Jaindersingh , my friend on LinkedIn is a Polyglot speaking nine Languages and I’m impressed. They’re good. But for now, I’m yet to see people proffering solutions with Businesses and that’s why I’m in to make all that happen with ELS.
Alaba: Where do you see ELS in the next 5 years?
Favour: In the next 5 years, I see ELS as the No1 Linguistics company in the world creating solutions in various sectors of the world.
Alaba: As a student-preneur, what is your advice to students who are aspiring to make an impact through entrepreneurship?
Favour: My advice is that they shouldn’t give up as nothing good comes easy, it might take time but it’s gonna be worth it. They were days when I was laughed at for learning foreign languages, days when I was looked down on.
But look at it now? That’s life!! Just keep doing what you’re doing. and like I’ve always said it’s “Quality consistency” or nothing.
Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara on his journey into entrepreneurship and the untapped moving industry
Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara (Image: Supplied)
Imara Benedict Oghenero, is an IT expert, entrepreneur and Eficaz Movers CEO, a logistics company focused on household, office and warehouse moves. In his Interview with Alaba Ayinuola, he shares his journey into entrepreneurship, the bottlenecks from government regulations, he also pointed out that the movers industry remains untapped. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your entrepreneurship journey?
Ben: My name is Imara Benedict Oghenero, I was born in Ughelli, Delta State and grew up in Lagos. I am the 4th child in a family of five. I attended Houdegbe North American University where I obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSC) in computer science. I started working in the IT department for QX solutions, a company that deals on car tracking devices. My entrepreneurship journey started in 2019, when I founded Eficaz Movers Limited.
Alaba: What inspired you to launch Eficaz Movers and how do you operate?
Ben: In July 2019, I was about to move to a new house, so I decided to search for moving companies and I found a particular company that carried out the move for me but when they finished moving my stuffs, I found out most of my properties were damaged. So that evening it flashed in my head, why not start up a moving company of my own, so I started my research immediately and that was how Eficaz Movers Ltd came about and decided people deserve extremely good standard in moving services.
Moving can be a stressful task, so Eficaz Movers Limited can make the experience fun and seamless, we do Apartment, Office and Household moves (whether you need to move your office, industry facility or warehouse) Eficaz Movers Ltd is your one stop.
Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges and successes since you launched?
Ben: Like every business, there are always challenges when setting up/running a business. We have had some challenges in the past that set us back a little when I started the business, however to mention a few, Driver Shortage, Government Regulations, Complexity of deliveries are some of the challenges faced in the business.
I think our major success happened in the year 2020. We were able to carry out a total of 45 household moves, 7 office relocation and 23 store deliveries for the year ended December 2020, which generated some loyal customers of our’s till date.
Alaba: What is the current state of Eficaz Movers and the steps you took to grow the business to where it
Ben: We are currently among the top 5 moving companies on the Lagos island environs (Lekki, Ajah, Ikoyi, Victoria Island), with a staff strength of about 15 people, However we are looking forward to growing the business to become one of the top 5 moving companies in Nigeria.
Some of the steps I took included; recurrently training our staffs to become specialized professionals in their fields, increased our social media presence as that has proven to be a major catalyst in influencing consumer decision making and I must say the evolving/increase in technology has also contributed to the growth of the business.
We also improved our customer care/relationship with our clients as well as improved working environment for the staffs.
Alaba: A number of African “Uber-for-trucks” platforms have emerged in recent years. How competitive is this industry?
Ben: That hasn’t really affected our business a lot. It’s quite competitive but the modus and standards in which we carry out our job is outstanding and it set’s us aside from others.
Alaba: What are your expansion plans and future for Eficaz Movers?
Ben: I’m looking forward to a more bigger work space and storage facility, opening few other offices in area’s where we are mostly demanded. Expand with more staff strength as well as trucks and other equipment to increase efficiency. The future of Eficaz Movers is to become a household name when it comes to relocation services in Nigeria. We want to become your go to place when you think relocation.
Alaba: Describe the toughest situation you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Ben: The toughest situation I have found myself in will be one time when we were just training some new employees in the parking/loading department in the year 2019, a customer’s valuable was damaged, it was a tough period for me as the business was still new and barely generating profit, so I had to ensure the customer’s valuable was replaced in due time.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Ben: I must say it’s not easy being an African entrepreneur because there are a lot of barriers, government regulations that act as constraints to your business but there’s also a lot of potential in the Africa market that is yet to be exploited.
Alaba: If you had the chance to start this business again, what would you do differently?
Ben: I would probably increase the marketing budget higher than I predicted when I started the business, infuse more social media awareness/marketing, I will also improve the level of training offered to our then new staffs.
Alaba: What is your advice to young budding entrepreneurs in Africa?
Ben: Starting small appears difficult but it’s a step ahead of those who don’t dare to try, keep putting effort in what you do and stay consistent.
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